After calling off broader talks on an economic stimulus package, President Trump reversed course Tuesday night, urging Congress to approve smaller relief measures, including funding for small-business loans. Yet there is still a great deal of uncertainty about when another stimulus bill will deliver emergency aid to millions of Americans impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, including small-business owners.
"The real problem is there just isn't enough financial help right now, especially if your business did not qualify to get it before," said Jill Johnson, CEO of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, a non-profit business consulting firm in Newark, New Jersey.
The federal government's Paycheck Protection Program approved more than 5.2 million loans totaling $525 billion in emergency relief funding. For many small-business owners who received those loans, however, that money has run out. And others are still struggling.
Getting an infusion of funding from another federal stimulus package could be one option — someday. Yet, rather than wait and see what happens with new federal help, experts say small-business owners in need of financial relief should take these steps now:
"Talk to your bank to discuss financing options, restructuring or payment deferrals on existing loans," said Detra Miller, head of the women- and minority-owned business team at M&T Bank.
Continue to build relationships with lending institutions for access to credit, agreed Ken Alozie, managing director at Greenwood Capital Advisors. "Start with the bank that provided you with a PPP loan."
Explore other lenders, too. While loan approval rates declined slightly from August to September, according to the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, approval rates were significantly higher at credit unions and alternative lenders, than big banks.
You may qualify for a low-interest EIDL loan from the Small Business Administration, even if you received a PPP loan. EIDL funds can be used for working capital and normal operating expenses. To qualify, your business must have 500 or fewer employees. Just be sure to read any loan contract carefully before signing it, experts say, and have a small-business attorney review it, if possible.
Your state's Economic Development Agency website, for example, may outline relief programs.
"Beware of third-party websites," said Alozie, who also volunteers with SCORE, a non-profit organization that has a large network of mentors for small-business owners. Stick with your municipality's official website.
SBA's Lender Match will match small-business owners with community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs), as well as microlenders. The SBA also recently announced several grant opportunities. SCORE, which is a partner of the SBA, also has a Small Business Resilience Hub that lists financial tools and resources.
"Sign up for email lists through chambers of commerce, business improvement districts and other regional and local business organizations for information about new funding opportunities, including grants," Johnson said.
While financial assistance is available, funding may be limited. Make some changes to your business on your own, Johnson advises.
"Small-business owners need to get creative about ways to conserve cash to make their dollars stretch," she said. "They need to be thinking about opportunities for new revenue streams — in addition to applying for grants and loans."
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